By Aziza Swellam, DPT
For Women’s Health and Fitness Day, Moffitt Cancer Center’s Rehabilitation Services Department has tips for women on the benefits of physical activity for the mind and body. It’s also important to discuss barriers to physical activity, how to conquer those barriers, and teach you simple exercises and stretches that you can do at home to improve your health.
Did you know only one in every two women in the United States is able to meet the physical activity recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)? Physical activity is more than just working out at the gym or going to group exercise classes. It can also include any movement of the body such as shopping, gardening and doing yardwork, riding a bike or walking up and down stairs. In order to benefit from physical activity, the CDC recommends adults log a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. By increasing the frequency over five days (at 30-minute sessions per week), it may reduce the risk of injury and prevent excessive fatigue. A minimum of 10 minutes of physical activity is required to gain health benefits such as a lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, some cancers, anxiety, depression, dementias including Alzheimer’s and death.
Research has shown that it is more difficult for adult women to get their recommended daily physical activity due to the following barriers:
- Lack of time
- Lack of motivation
- Parenting demands
- Lack of energy
- Health problems*
- *If you have health problems, please be screened by your physician for physical activity limitations and ask for an outpatient referral for an individualized prescribed exercise program.
- Financial limitations
However, more women could become more physically active if they incorporate a simple workout routine into their daily lives or make small modifications to improve consistency. Some options include:
- Work out at home
- Find a partner to work out with to help motivate you and hold you accountable
- Choose an activity that you like; the more you enjoy the activity, the more likely you will stick to it
- Alternate the days you and your partner work out to help with childcare coverage
- Set achievable goals to celebrate your accomplishments! It’s better to do something than nothing at all
Moderate-intensity activities can include walking, gardening, cycling on level surfaces, dancing, yoga and swimming.
To get you started on the right foot, try these exercises. Begin with a 10-minute walk, then select four to five exercises to formulate a workout routine. You can steadily increase the number of repetitions and sets. The more you work them into your daily routine, the less disruptive they become to your daily schedule.
1. 10-minute Walk
Begin with a three to five minute warm up at a leisurely pace, then increase your walking speed to a brisk pace for 10 minutes, followed by a leisurely pace for a three to five minute cool down. As you increase your endurance, add an additional five minutes per week.
2. Supine Bridge (10 Reps, 2 Sets)
Begin lying on your back with your arms resting at your sides, your legs bent at the knees and your feet flat on the ground. Tighten your abdominals and slowly lift your hips off the floor to a bridge position, keeping your back straight. Make sure your trunk is stiff throughout the exercise and your arms flat on the floor.
3. Supine Lower Trunk Rotation (10 Reps, 2 Sets)
Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and feet resting on the floor. Keeping your back flat, slowly rotate your knees down toward the floor until you feel a stretch in yout trunk and hold. Make sure that your back and shoulders stay in contact with the floor throughout the exercise.
4. Supine Hamstring Stretch with Strap (5 Reps, 3 Sets)
Begin lying on your back with legs straight, holding the end of a strap that is looped around one foot. Use the strap to pull your leg up toward your body until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your upper leg. Hold this position. Make sure to keep your opposite leg straight on the ground during the stretch.
5. Supine Pelvic Floor Contraction (10 Reps, 2 Sets)
Begin lying on your back with your legs straight. Exhale and contract your pelvic floor muscles. Relax, inhale and repeat. Make sure you keep the buttock and thigh muscles relaxed during the exercise.
6. Wall Squat (10 Reps, 2 Sets)
Begin in a standing upright position in front of a wall with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lean back into a squat against the wall with your knees bent to 90 degrees, and hold this position. Make sure your knees are not bent forward past your toes and keep your back flat against the wall during the exercise.
7. Standing Hip Abduction with Counter Support (10 Reps, 2 Sets)
Begin in a standing upright position with your hands resting on a counter. Lift your leg out to your side, then return to the starting position and repeat. Make sure to keep your moving leg straight and do not bend or rotate your trunk during the exercise. Use the counter to help you balance as needed.
8. Standing Heel Raises (10 Reps, 2 Sets)
Begin in a standing upright position in front of a counter or stable surface for support. At the same time, slowly raise both heels off the ground, then lower them down to the floor and repeat. Make sure to maintain an upright posture and keep your weight on the balls of your feet when you lift your heels.
9. Seated Chair Push Ups
Begin sitting upright with your hands resting on the armrests of the chair. Straighten your arms, lifting your body off of the chair. Hold briefly, then lower back down and repeat. Make sure to use a sturdy chair and use your legs to balance as needed. Do not shrug your shoulders during the exercise.